Coronavirus in Mumbai: Mulund MLA uses drones to swoop down on lockdown violators

Why go lane to lane when you can get a bird's eye view of happenings? This was the reasoning of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA of T ward, Mihir Kotecha, who set up aerial surveillance to ensure lockdown rules were being followed in his constituency.

Mulund has its fair share of slums and congested localities. Surveillance is a complicated task for the administration, especially while dealing with an increasingly restive public that has been homebound for more than 57 days now. Regularly there are incidents of citizens breaking lockdown rules and hitting the streets. To tackle such violations and to keep a close watch on the ground, the T-ward administration adopted drone surveillance.

The initiative was the brainchild of Kotecha and the drones were equipped with high-definition cameras, hovering up to 50 feet over the ground and offering a detailed aerial view. This drive was ongoing ever since the lockdown began, on March 25. Kotecha has shared some of the drone footage. People can be seen thronging the streets, in flagrant violation of lockdown rules. However, as the drone gets closer to them, they are seen dispersing from the spot.

"We adopted this unique approach mainly for moral policing, so that people can understand they are being watched and keep a check on their activities," Kotecha told The Free Press Journal.

"We would routinely carry out surveillance. With the arrival of drones, things became easier for us as they provide us an aerial view and their cameras can cover large areas at a time. People in our constituency became aware of our surveillance and would run away the moment they saw the drones approaching their area," Kotecha adds.

The after-effects of this surveillance became evident -- people gradually stopped coming out on roads and gathering on building terraces.

"As the drive continued, people started to take note and curtailed their outings," said a ward official.

However, in the fourth phase of the lockdown, Kotecha has relaxed the surveillance, in view of the various relaxations proposed by the government.

"People have been forced to remain indoors for more than 45 days. Now, slowly, they are coming out for walks, especially senior citizens, those with heart disease and diabetics. Since in Lockdown 4.0, the government has allowed several relaxations, we have decided to discontinue the drone surveillance as of now," he informed.

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